Best gay bars in Chicago

Boystown is the center of the gay scene in Chicago. But great gay bars can be found everywhere from downtown to Uptown.

Photograph: Christopher Kitahara
Big Chicks is one of the best gay bars in Chicago.

Chicago has a vibrant gay bar scene, and from dance clubs to dive bars to sports bars, there's a gay bar in Chicago that fits every interest. And here's the best part—they're not all in Boystown.

RECOMMENDED: Best bars in Chicago

Best gay bars in Chicago

Berlin

This freak-friendly dance destination in Lakeview built its reputation back in the mid-’80s with a mix of German new-wave music, art installations and even transvestite shows. These days, it’s still quirky but more retro, with Prince-tribute, disco and ’80s nostalgia nights. Goths and gays are extra welcome, but the scene here is made up of almost everyone. Thursday night's Stardust is a major locus of nightlife creativity.

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Lakeview

Big Chicks

Not a Boystown fan? Skip the stand-and-model parade and head to this laid-back Uptown saloon, where community matriarch Michelle Fire serves up tasty victuals to sunburned boys and girls at her famous Sunday buffets and keeps the rest of the week happening with tons of food and drink specials (like buck burgers on Mondays) and all-out dance parties on weekends.

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Uptown

The Closet

Critics' pick

This teeny taproom is a good stone’s throw from the hustle and muscle of Halsted Street’s rowdy boy bars, and that’s just the way this clientele likes it. Plenty of ladies hang here until the midnight hour, but the boys crash the party shortly thereafter, creating one of the few truly mixed queer scenes in the city.

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Boystown

Crew Bar and Grill

Whether you’re hungry for baseball, football, rugby or just beer, this straight-friendly gay sports bar will work. Over forty beers, tasty (and even healthy) pub grub, lots of TVs and a rah-rah decor make this a fun place to cheer for your team, whatever team you’re on.

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Uptown

Downtown

It’s not Gentry (R.I.P., catty piano player cracking jokes about our ugly shoes), but are we complaining? No. Because not only does this place attract one of the more diverse gay crowds in the city, but it’s also the closest gay enclave to the Loop.

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River North

D.S. Tequila Company

If you’ve been to minibar, you know that owners Stu Zirin and John Dalton are no masters of subtlety. Witness, as further evidence, their more recent venture, D.S. Tequila, whose name (we’re pretty sure) refers to the sex act the Dirty Sanchez. The interior boasts a menu of boozy frozen margaritas and decent tacos and burgers. The only thing understated about the place is the outdoor patio, where twinkling colored lights give off a serene urban vibe.

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Boystown

Elixir

At this shoebox of a cocktail bar, the drinks are skillfully prepared, the crowd is kept to a minimum by the doorman, and the music never gets so loud that it drowns out your insights on Jean Genet. The clientele is mixed in age but not in gender, and everyone is on their best behavior, which makes it an altogether more sophisticated and adult experience than Elixir’s next-door sister, Hydrate.

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Boystown

The Glenwood

At first glance, this place looks like your typical yuppie sports bar, but the vastly male clientele, plum and ochre walls adorned with abstract art, and Kylie Minogue soundtrack reveal it to be Rogers Park’s straightest-acting gay bar. It’s also dog-friendly and offers a nice selection of retro cocktails like sidecars and lime rickeys.

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Chicago

Hydrate

Hot and sweaty boys pack themselves in like gay sardines for all-night dancing at this thumpin' after-hours club. A rotating menu of shenagigans include the Hy-Drag Revue, lube wrestling (seeing is believing), blackout parties and more. Recent renovations have carved out a space for live theater.

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Boystown

Jackhammer

A construction theme dominates this Rogers Park gay bar, where a grab bag of leather dudes, street-tuff trannies and Boystowners out for adventure cram the dance floor on weekend nights. If you can lure yourself away from the constant porn, a beautiful outdoor patio beckons with a psychic on hand to predict that the guy you’re about to take home is probably not the same one you’ll be introducing to your parents one day.

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Chicago
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